Netflix hit series Dear White People, which just got green lit for season 2, is an expanded take on the 2014 film of the same name exploring race and the lives of black students at the fictional Ivy league school Winchester. Logan Browning stars as the outspoken “woke” Sam White, along with many others who appeared in the film version and reprise their roles in the 30 minute episodic.
Jeremy Tardy, who plays the brilliant Rashid Bakr – a Kenyan man who comes to America to study and deals with a culture shock along with other racial issues on campus, chatted with Glambergirlblog exclusively about where his character story line could go for season 2, the importance of a show like this, and the racial issues in the series.
The Milwaukee born actor always knew he wanted to be an actor from the moment he saw people entertain him on the television. According to his mother, he asked as a child how did the people get inside the TV. He thought they came into the house and crawled into the set, but once he was explained exactly how television worked a star was basically born.
Having appeared in plays since the age of 5, going to a performing arts high school, and studying at Juilliard, Tardy landed roles on The Mindy Project, Castle, and “War Dogs,” but Dear White People has been the role to date to really challenge the actor and put him on a fast track to huge stardom.
Tardy just got back from an out-of-town trip when he received word of his Dear White People audition and went out the next day. “I read through the material and I had already seen the film. I read the script for the film early on when it was in pre-production, so when this came on again I was very interested,” He said.
After landing the role his preparation to channel an “authentic” Kenyan accent started. He studied everyone from political leaders to comedians to perfect the ideal range for his character Rashid. It was an insecurity of his, but he nailed it if you ask me. “Rashid is a very intelligent young African, specifically Kenyan, man, from Nairobi and he comes to America to study because of the opportunity and advantages. I think that Rashid is, specifically in this first season, dealing with a culture shock of coming to America.”
And just because Rashid wasn’t born into “American privilege” doesn’t mean he came from nothing. “There’s a reality to the culture shock that many of us as Americans are totally unaware of. The privileges and the advantages, and that does not necessarily mean that he was living in a bush or living in a hut, or that he comes from destitute poverty. I think he comes from privilege. When he comes here I think that most of his experience, of course he’s learning. He’s learning what he’s learning in school and he’s learning differences in terms of the political situation of America, but I think that most of it in general could be narrowed down to the cultural shock. Obviously racism comes up,” Jeremy said.
Racism is a huge topic on the show, but not just with other races also within the black community. “From the vantage point and all the research from the information I’ve been able to gather there is a very clear distinction between American racism and what racism would look like in Africa or in Kenya,” Tardy said, adding, “You don’t necessarily get racism in the specific way that you get it here in America. Where you have a majority of people who look just like you in Africa, where do you see the racism there. How does racism operate if everybody’s black.”
“I think something very important is brought up. It’s a very, very interesting issue as a man I have little experience with but via my momma and other black women that I know and love I definitely at least hear and understand second-hand, the dynamic between African-Americans who are of different skin tones. Going back to the whole Willie Lynch thing, and the closer you are to being white, the white is right type of mentality, and the closer you are to that the better, or the more value you have. This real sick psychological dynamic, but there is a real interesting dynamic that those two characters (Logan Browning’s Sam and Antoinette Robertson’s Coco) have and you see their experiences through diversity is very different based on that. Based on their skin tone and they have to adjust based on that.”
Issues of colorism have always been present unfortunately in black culture and lightly touched on in Dear White People. Tardy said, “I’m a dark-skinned black man, my momma’s a dark-skinned black woman and you think about how dark-skinned black people in America are valued, or not valued rather and the issues with that how do they find personal beauty, how do they find self-love, self-confidence in the midst of that and that’s something, I don’t think they drag it out, but it definitely has certain seeds that are planted throughout the series where you do see the different nuisances that are involved with people of lighter skin tones and darker skin tones.”
In season 2 that issue could be explored more but Jeremy hopes to get more of Rashid’s back story. “As a viewer what would be interesting to me to see Rashid evolve in future episodes? That would be everything from you getting a sense of his own background, exactly the circumstances from where he comes, the kind of privileges he might come from or the struggles he might come from. What his particular experience was coming to America and how that transition was. I’m always interested to see what it’s like to come to America for the first time and experience American culture for yourself.”
Of course we need to learn more about these languages Rashid speaks. Jeremy agreed. “The other four languages that he speaks. I have my own speculations on what they are based on what would be realistic for someone in Kenya. I think one of the criticisms of Rashid, about the African presence in the series, is that some people feel that he comes off as not being aware of things and I disagree with that. He’s very much aware but there’s a reality that he could be overwhelmed by it. It’s the processing of it all. I’m interested in seeing how he’s processing all of this information.”
Moving forward this year you can catch Jeremy Tardy on Ten Days in the Valley premiering on ABC this fall. He also shot a short film about a famed former NFL Linebacker, along with starting his own production company. This man is busy and talented and GGB is here for it all!
Keep up with all things Jeremy Tardy by following him on social media @Jeremy_Tardy on Twitter and JeremyTardy on Instagram and Facebook. Watch a featurette for Dear White People in the clip below and catch up on the show now streaming on Netflix. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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